Canyons, the final frontier of the Pacific Northwest! Five lectures and two field sessions will teach canyoneering specific anchor and rappel techniques to sustainably explore hidden canyons and wild waterfalls.

Canyoneering (or “Canyoning”) is the sport of exploring canyons using a variety of techniques such as scrambling, climbing, rappelling, wading and swimming.  The term is most often used to describe technical descents requiring ropes, harnesses, and other specialized gear. This class will focus primarily on local aquatic canyons in the Pacific Northwest.

Course Information & Format

The Mazamas Canyoneering class takes place over approximately six weeks from late May through June. The class includes five lectures held at the Mazamas Mountaineering Center (MMC), two field sessions, and an optional July camping weekend outing following the class.

The application for the class typically opens in April.

View the exact dates of the class and register at the link below:

Applications for the 2024 class are closed. 

Click here for the 2024 Canyoneering class registration

Course Details

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Prerequisites

No previous canyoneering experience required; however, participants should be familiar with belaying, rope management, wilderness navigation, and also be a competent swimmer. This is NOT a beginner class for rappelling. Participants must be able to safely execute a basic rappel without supervision. One way participants can achieve the required rappelling experience is by taking the Mazamas BCEP class.

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REQUIRED GEAR

Canyoneering class participants are expected to have all the gear below to take the Mazamas Canyoneering class:

  • Full body wetsuit - (Thickness - 4/3 or 5/4 if you run cold. Farmer John wetsuits and shorties are not permitted.)
  • Climbing harness and helmet
  • Canyon-specific rappel device (Ex: Imlay Critr)
  • Figure 8 device (Ex: Kong Classic Figure 8)
  • Large locking carabiners x 4 (Ex: Black Diamond Rocklock)
  • Prusiks loops x 2 (waist and foot for ascending)
  • Quick Link x 3 (climbing rated, size 7mm or 8mm)
  • 30 feet of 1" black climb-spec webbing
  • 40 liter backpack (be prepared to help carry the ropes)
  • Dry bag (for car keys, food, etc.)
  • Quick-dry synthetic clothing
  • Rain shell jacket
  • Light hiking boots with decent tread
  • Neoprene socks (recommended) or wool socks
  • Rappel gloves (gardening gloves work well)
  • Signaling whistle (ex: Fox 40 whistle)
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Gear Package

During registration there will be an option to indicate if you would like to purchase a basic canyoneering gear package that includes the below. Please note, the gear package is discounted compared to if you bought the items at retail. Buying the gear package is strongly recommended.

  • 1 Imlay CRITR
  • 1 Carabiner for CRITR
  • 30 feet of 1" black webbing
  • 3 climbing rated quick links
  • Fox 40 Whistle
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Tuition

$475/members & $565/nonmembers

Tuition Assistance and payment plans are available. The application for financial assistance is built into the course application process. Tuition includes a copy of "Canyoning in the Pacific Northwest: A Technical Resource" by Kevin Clark.

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Skills Taught
  • Planning an outing
  • Canyon hazards
  • Appropriate gear & water protection
  • Leave no trace & canyon ethics
  • Rappel technique & situational awareness
  • Signals & communication
  • Single rope rappel technique
  • Why two-strand rappels are dangerous in canyons with significant water
  • Why the ATC is not a good rappel device in canyons
  • Rope blocks
  • Rigging for contingency
  • Retrievable anchors
  • Introduction to swiftwater
  • Introduction to canyon rescue
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Canyoneering Involves
  • Anchor creativity
  • Team work
  • Rappelling down waterfalls
  • Rappelling in confined spaces\Rappelling with packs
  • Landing in deep pools
  • Swimming & dealing with current
  • Cold temperatures (many creeks stay cold all year round)
  • Bushwhacking to remote areas
  • Tremendous fun!
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Canyoneering History

Today, canyoneering is practiced all over the world, although it is most well known in Europe and the United States. In North America, its most commonly associated with the famous slot canyons of the Colorado Plateau, although it’s also practiced in the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevada, Arizona, British Columbia, Mexico, Hawaii, and here in the Cascade Range. With one of the greatest concentrations of waterfalls in the world, canyoneering is a natural fit for the Pacific Northwest.

Like climbs, canyons can vary widely in level of difficulty:  ranging from the easy hike-through variety to the extremely technical. Dry canyons are significantly easier in terms of rigging and preparation compared to those with flowing water.  The more water that’s present, the more difficult the canyon becomes.

While there are many similarities between canyoneering and climbing, the two are unique sports with unique techniques and hazards.  Experienced climbers may find their skills do not translate entirely to the canyon world; there’s a lot more to learn.

Canyoneering Contact Information

Do you have a question about the Mazamas Canyoneering Class? Do not hesitate to email us at canyoneering@mazamas.org.